On March, 8th, in Nice, the French Presidency of the Council of the EU and the housing minister of France, Emmanuelle Wargon revived a very much needed rendez-vous between housing leaders across the EU. The last time when Ministers responsible for our sector met was almost a decade ago, back in 2013. For social, public, and cooperative housing providers, the meeting was historical for two reasons - a declaration committing to improve homes was signed by all 27 Member States and Housing Europe was the only non-institutional EU organisation invited to address the Ministers.
"Since the start of mandate, we have paid attention to a topic that is often overlooked - to make our homes better, working on energy efficiency, affordability and renovation projects for social housing with the EU,” the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said at the start and stressed that beauty and sustainability must be affordable for all Europeans, as well as that the quality of housing is coming to the fore and that the New European Bauhaus will be the cultural aspect of this work. Adding to this, EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson said that the initiative will also play a role in bringing Europe towards net-zero emissions by 2050.
Alongside the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Parliament, Housing Europe’s President, Bent Madsen reinforced the role of public, cooperative, and social housing, stressing the essential need to boost investment. "For a growing number of citizens, accessing decent, affordable, and adequate housing has become more difficult than ever. All this could be different if the EU and all national governments commit to increasing support to supply public, cooperative, social, community-led affordable housing,” he said just before European housing leaders signed the declaration. (download the declaration below this article)
The document covers many important points, raising the importance of attention to the social impact of energy standards, the significant costs linked to the green transition, and stresses the importance of investment in social and affordable housing is also raised. The declaration also acknowledges the outcome of the "#Housing2030 - Effective policies for affordable housing in the UNECE region" report led by Housing Europe, the UNECE, and UN-Habitat.
In times of uncertainty, two things are beyond doubt – ‘Stay At Home’ must be possible for all, and the need for more social, affordable housing is real, Bent Madsen continued. COVID-19 made the vital role of social housing very explicit and yet, despite forecasts pointing downwards, housing prices and rents have been increasing. In 2020, 14% faced difficulties paying rent, mortgage, bills, but at the same time, in almost all Europe, the share of social and affordable housing has been declining for decades.
While several institutions, such as the European Parliament and the OECD have been increasingly vocal in calling for investment in affordable housing, there is not yet a sustained trend in re-investment in social, public, and cooperative homes – despite positive examples.
Bent Madsen also pointed out that public, cooperative, and social housing providers' main objective for the Renovation Wave and the fair energy transition is to create and maintain sustainable communities with a high level of quality of life and an affordable cost of living. To do this even better, Housing Europe and 9 partners have joined efforts to shape the envisaged by the Affordable Housing Initiative 100 lighthouse projects by creating blueprints for a just energy transition with affordability and liveability at its heart. SHAPE-EU will be the point of reference for a socially-inclusive Renovation Wave and New European Bauhaus, our President added.
“The sector witnesses increasing support for affordable housing and the next step we would like to see being taken is more exchange on how to ensure the optimal use of available finance to be able to close a €10 billion gap to deliver decarbonisation,” he concluded.
Watch the press conference given by Housing Minister, Emmanuelle Wargon after the meeting.